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July 30, 2021, by jhillary1

My Career Journey in the Third-Sector

By Ailya Syeda Hasnain, BA Hons English graduate

What is the third sector?

The third sector is defined as a “range of organisations that are neither public sector nor private sector. It includes voluntary and community organisations (both registered charities and other organisations such as associations, self-help groups, and community groups), social enterprises, mutuals, and co-operatives.” Well-known examples of third sector organisations range from Oxfam, Cancer Research, and the NSPCA, each fighting for a unique social cause that goes to show the diversity that exists within the sector.

Why the third sector?

Throughout my degree, I participated in the third sector Consultancy Challenge which was a pivotal point in my time at Nottingham in that it gave me a unique insight into the sector. The challenge required me to take on the role of a consultant and solve a particular problem facing various third sector organisations. Some examples of projects included increasing community engagement for AgeUK, setting up a marketing campaign for Pulp Friction, and evaluating new safeguarding procedures for Nottingham Schools. The projects were so different, but what really inspired me was the experience of a group of people with very different skills, all working for the same purpose which was ultimately going to make society better. I still have this practical experience on my CV and found it a unique aspect to discuss during interviews – so I really recommend signing up!

Breaking into the third sector

It’s all good and well to decide you want to work for the better good of society and have a job with a social purpose, it was a huge surprise to me to realise how competitive the market is and how many others also want to have a purpose-led career. The application is quite different from other graduate jobs, in that they specifically ask about your own values and why you want to work in that company. As third sector organisations are values-led, having the right person on board with their mission is instrumental for the organisation, so this question has a lot of weight behind it. Once I understood this, I would consistently sign-up for appointments with careers advisers and ask them to check my answers. The more practice in answering these kinds of questions, the better chances you have of being noticed and accepted for an interview.

How I got into my current role

Every third sector organisation will have departments typical in other companies, i.e. marketing, fundraising, business development, events, etc. so you can apply for a role that both appeals to your personal values, and professional goals. It took me a few years to pinpoint which area of business I wanted to develop and I have moved roles a few times. I initially started as a projects assistant, coordinating the delivery of a programme to aspiring headteachers. This involved setting up large-scale events, tracking the progress of participants throughout the programme, and writing reports following this. Following another job as a programme coordinator, I have now moved into a marketing and business development role for an education and social mobility charity, which requires more creativity in my day-to-day job. I lead marketing campaigns, research into which parts of England are in most need of our programmes, and drive forward growth strategies. I have drawn largely on the skills gained from my English degree, writing and communicating with different audiences, research, and critical thinking. It is a role that both terrifies me, (in that I have to pitch to high-level executives so I had to overcome my public speaking phobia in week two), and it excites me, by making me learn new skills all the time.

Talk to a career advisor about your journey

Finally, I am indebted to the Careers and Employability Service who have patiently coached me through every daunting interview, every lull in my career, and countless covering letters. I thoroughly recommend booking an appointment with a career advisor and spending the time to ask questions about the job process, practice interview questions or just generally speak about roles in the third sector.


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